3 reasons you need to fail.
Failing is as natural as farting. I know, great analogy, but here’s the thing. There is a perception that failing, as with farting, is bad and embarrassing. Both cause you to want to, at times, curl into a ball and hide somewhere. This stigma needs to stop and we need to embrace our failures more.
It might have been for the best
'Unfortunately, your firm and insurance choices have retracted their offers. Please proceed to clearing when applications open'
A whirlwind of emotions flew through my head when I read that line above. My heart sank, my palms were sweaty and I was on the verge of a panic attack. The wave of negative thoughts crashed on me like a tsunami; "Why didn't you study harder?", "I bet it's just because you were born a failure" and especially “Mum and Dad do not deserve someone like you who would just let them down”. I spiraled down a hole of never ending nightmares, a constant reminder of my ‘failure to get into a good university’.
I ended up going through clearing and it was beyond stressful trying to find universities that balanced the variables of ‘good reputation’ and ‘I could get into’. I ended up choosing to go to Coventry University after someone recommended it and others supported the choice. To my surprise, I felt that it was a stroke of luck to have not gotten into my original choice. You see, Coventry may not be very famous compared to other universities such as Surrey, Sussex or any other Russell group (The British equivalent to Ivy League) university, but it does one thing very well. It is the main university of recruitment for Jaguar, Land Rover, Bosch UK, AP racing and many other companies of the Automotive Industry. What are the odds that one of the biggest ‘failures’ in life put me into a situation perfect for what I want to do.
It fuels progress
Elon Musk once said ‘There's a silly notion that failure's not an option at NASA. Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough’. This, to me, is one of biggest reason why we need to fail. The very basis of the term ‘state of the art’ is fueled by this simple idea that success is the result of many failures.
Before coming to university, I always had the need to carry out any experiment with pin-point accuracy and precision. Throughout my IGCSE and A-Levels, I had some of the most unrealistic and perfect experiment reports. Graphs were always directly proportional, relationships were always as stated and theoretical results were always the same as experimental results. I always read up on an experiment and made sure that if any trial looked even the slightest bit off, I’d discard those results and try again. This led me to believe that I would have no trouble in university with my lab work.
I’d like to first say that throughout my first year in engineering, if something didn't work, there was always a multitude of variables that can be considered which could have caused the issue. If something DOES work, it’s because of magic. We need to fail at something so we can figure out what we need to do better the next time. And the good thing is that, the more we fail, the more information we obtain to improve something. This is how we push the boundaries of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Of course, this applies to all fields of human knowledge.
It shifts your perspective
One of my favourite ‘fails’ was from Slam 2017, The Unorthodox Mind. I was approached by the organisers to join since we participated in another slam previously and they wanted me to perform one of my ‘infamous’ poems from Year 10/11 English. I was reluctant but something in me thought otherwise and I wrote a poem titled ‘Say it’. It was about expressing my feelings as someone who is gay in a country where you are constantly oppressed because of that and finding myself.
Long story short, I failed that night, at least I thought I did. I did not get into the top three. My poem was given a score of 7 out of 10 with improvements such as ‘Try to have better structured and more consistent rhyming octets’. And to top it off, I was talking to the organiser while she was being thanked so heavily by the contestant who won third place. I was devastated. What was the point of this roller-coaster of emotions I just put myself through? Was it worth any amount of embarrassment I just subjected myself to?
Some sulking later, I was discussing my feelings with a friend and it struck me. Many of my friends, their parents, and even people I had never met before were moved by it. I focused so heavily on the fact that my poem was ‘mediocre’ that I did not see the impact it had on so many people. The reason I entered the slam wasn’t too win it (although it would have been a nice bonus), but it was to showcase what a poetry slam is about. To educate and move those around you with raw emotion. With that in mind, I think I did quite well.
Our failures tend to cloud our true goals and achievements, especially for someone whose emotions can easily overwhelm themselves (like me). However, the moment we recognise and start being aware of these feelings, we become better at assessing situations and we truly start to appreciate not only what we have and can accomplish, but ourselves as well.
Things to keep in mind when failing
Here are some things that should always be with you to ensure you get the best out of your failures.
Remain calm and have confidence in yourself
Remember that your perception of yourself will always be worse than those that are true to you. Remember who you are, what you’ve accomplished and what your goals are. Let these be your guide to success.
Cool down before your next move
Never ever make decisions unless you have thoroughly gone through and considered every aspect of that choice. Brash decisions are unlikely to benefit you and make proper use of information from your failures.
Remember that you are always in control
This is the most important of the three. Let past failures remind you of what not to do or what to do better but always remember that you’re in control. You choose what you want to do with your life.
To close and to provide a bit of inspiration, despite my ‘failure’ to get into one of my original university choices, I am currently a student ambassador, an event organiser for the student volunteering team, a representative of the Mechanical, Aerospace and Automotive school, a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineering, one of two captains of the drone racing society and soon to be a Math proctor. All of this while maintaining first class grades.
So, remember the next time you get a test back; If you got a good grade, congratulations, you’ve succeeded. If you get a bad grade, congratulations, you now have more insight into the subject, thus, you’ve also succeeded. You win either way :D
So there are some reasons why you need to get out there and fail!